Stanford University
Two women sit across from each other at a table, one is holding a book.

What Is the Core?

The humanities are a central part of a college education.

Studying literature, philosophy, history, and religious studies strengthens valuable skills in research, communication, and careful thought. It exposes us to powerful ideas from around the world and across time that broaden our horizons and help us reflect on how to live.

With this in mind, Stanford created the Humanities Core to give undergraduates with any major plan an accessible entry point into humanities exploration. There are no prerequisites and no required order in which courses are taken. The structure of HumCore ensures that whatever course you select, you will always get a global and comparative humanities exploration.

HumCore classes meet twice a week. In the first class session, you will focus on a text or object selected by your professor, with a focus on the specific area or question named in the class title (e.g., “Great Books, Big Ideas from Ancient Greece and Rome” or “ Looking for the Way (Dao) in East Asia”).

For the second meeting, you will meet in a collaborative conversation with the other students and faculty from the HumCore classes in session that quarter. By exploring a tradition in depth with your professor, and then putting those ideas in a wider context with other faculty and peers, you will build an invaluable framework for understanding the world and yourself.